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Question: What was the first use of spacecraft thermal control louvers, doors, pinwheels, or other things that physically actuate either passively or actively?


From this answer to What are the louver-like structures on the sides of the Mariner 4 probe?

I just ran across the louvers in close-up view!

In the JLP video 1965: Discovery at Mars there is an excellent video The Changing Face of Mars with introductory remarks by its producer/director/writer, Blaine Baggett, Director, Office of Communication and Education, JPL, about Mariner 3 and 4 missions to Mars embedded within his Von Karman lecture.

At about 00:38:50 you can see them "moving" (could be Mariner 3 or 4):

Mariner 4 thermal louvers

From What are these air-vent-like structures on this satellite?

I struck out with my previous question so I'll try again.

What are these large circular 4-vane structures on the sides of NOAA-19 - the satellite that "fell down"?

They remind me of adjustable air vents but I have a feeling that's not quite right.

You can see them from another angle here.

enter image description here

Spacecraft rotated for better view:

enter image description here

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Partial as i cannot currently find something that states "first":

But i note that:

Vanguard, Explorer, Pioneer, and previous Sputniks had passive thermal protection only (if any).

By May 1958, that leaves the Soviet Sputnik 3.

https://www.drewexmachina.com/2018/05/15/sputnik-3-the-first-orbiting-geophysical-laboratory/

A fan circulated the internal nitrogen atmosphere of the satellite and 16 external louvers would open and close as needed to help maintain the internal temperature.

enter image description here

enter image description here

If Object D (same design as Sputnik 3, latter being the back up) had had a successful launch then it would have been the first in April 1958.

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    $\begingroup$ I am always amazed that the Soviets kept their electronics pressurized with a little fan to blow the air around and keep things cool. So typically Soviet! Simple, brute force, rugged. $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2022 at 20:12

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